I desperately wanted to enjoy Denise Kahn’s Hot Air but a failure to deliver on its promise, combined with amateur narration made it very difficult despite her enjoyable and easy style of writing.
The story promises an exciting adventure high in the air when a hot air balloonist has to use his former military training to prevent an act of terrorism while floating above a major event. The opening scene certainly delivers on this promise. It sets up the tension and excitement for what is to come.
Immediately after that first chapter however, the story drops back in time to when the hero was just a boy and, for the next 50 or so chapters, the tale meanders through his life story and even goes further back in time so that we learn how the boy’s parents met and fell in love. Much of the story is irrelevant and therefore uninteresting.
Credit where credit is due: Kahn seems to have done a lot of research, from hot air ballooning to the war in Afghanistan. The different elements of this story are presented very believably.
There is an argument that an author should never narrate their own book unless they are a professional narrator or actor. This is a prime example. Kahn’s narration lacks any real voice characterisation and her accents vary from vaguely okay to awful. Her pronunciation of various Dari words – which is one of two primary Afghan languages – are mostly quite good, with just a few exceptions. With native Dari speakers in my immediate family, I was both delighted and disappointed to hear the language spoken in this audiobook! Anyone familiar with some of the accents she uses, in particular the Irish accent, will cringe.
While she lacks any decent characterisations in her reading, she does use computer generation to change the tone of her voice, deepening it for male characters. This is very clever and very effective.
Perhaps the biggest failing of Hot Air, is that the blurb to promote the book has very little to do with the story. By the time we get to the act of terrorism, we are so distanced from the promise of the novel that it is hard to care any more. The climax is also so short-lived that it isn’t really worth the wait.
The whole history of the main character, in particular his military background, sets up the finale but has very little to do with how he handles the terrorist and, by this time, there is still no indication about why we needed to know his parent’s lengthy history.
If the synopsis had been more honest, it would attract the kind of person interested in this story rather than attracting people coming into it with a far different expectation and then being disappointed. Manipulating her voice for characterisation may be a good thing, but manipulating potential punters into buying her book is completely unacceptable.
The title, Hot Air, sums it up perfectly.
The audiobook runs for approximately 7 hours and 57 minutes. It was released in March 2017 by 4Agapi and is available through audible.